Sitting Is The New Smoking, How Your Chiro Or Physio Can Help You Sit More Comfortably
Mechanically, our bodies are not meant to sit for long periods. We are made to be on our feet, moving and walking. That is why you are able to travel and walk long distances much like our early explorers and today’s marathon runners. Your body and joints are designed to move and it feels good to move.
Beth is an accountant who was right in the middle of tax season. This meant she was spending countless hours working at her computer. After a couple weeks, she started having trouble sitting for more than 20 minutes before her back started to get sore.
Even with taking more frequent breaks, Beth was not able to shake her back pains. Finally, she decided to visit her chiropractor. She was given advice on how to set up her desk properly and stretches to target areas that had tightened up. She received adjustments to her lower back.
After a few visits, she started feeling better and was able to finish her work and help her clients with their taxes.
Nowadays, many upper and lower back problems can be partially blamed on long hours spent sitting on our seats. Let us start from the top.
Upper Cross Syndrome
When you sit and work at a computer for example, many of us find ourselves reaching out to our keyboards and mice, looking down at our screens, leaning forward with our head as we type.
This type of posture often leads to what is commonly referred to as, “Upper Cross Syndrome”. This can lead to neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Sometimes, this can also lead to headaches and pins and needles going down your arms.
Shortened, tight muscles
In this posture, the joints in the back of your neck get overloaded with compression stress. Neck and upper body muscles that get tight and shorten include your:
- Suboccipitals, or the muscles at the base of your skull on either side.
- Upper traps
Stretched out and weakened
Not only that but as those muslces tighten, other muscles will become stretched and weak:
- Deep neck flexors
- Middle traps
Lower Cross Syndrome
The next problem that can come from sitting is lower back pain. As there is an “Upper Cross Syndrome” for your upper back, there is also a “Lower Cross Syndrome” for your lower back. When you sit for long periods, muscles that are shortened become tighter, and muscles that have been stretched out for too long become weaker.
In the case of sitting, your:
- Abdominal muscles
- Hip flexors
are often the muscles which become shortened and tight, whereas your:
- Lower back muscles
do the opposite and become stretched out and weak. This imbalance can put further strain on your lower joints and spine, leading to lower back discomfort.
Another issue is with your discs. Your discs are the soft squishy structures that sit between your spinal bones or vertebrae and help your body absorb pressure and external forces. When you sit, this position places more stress on your discs than if you were to stand or lay down.
There is roughly 5x more pressure on your discs when you are sitting than laying down, and 40% more than when you are standing. If you bend forward while sitting this increases the pressure on your discs to 85% more than if you were standing upright.
Patient Success Stories
A Better Way Of Sitting
There is nothing wrong with sitting for short periods with proper support and posture. If you do sit for long periods, here are a couple suggestions to help ease the pressure on your body:
- Make sure that you have good posture even when sitting
- Avoid leaning forward in your chair
- Keep your joints close to a 90o bend (ie. elbows, knees, hips)
- Scoot your bum right to the back of your chair and lean back
- Avoiding having any gap between your chair back and your bum. Ideally, you want to have a slight lean backwards with your backrest
- If your chair is too deep or you find your feet dangling off the edge, place a cushion behind your back or use a footrest
- If your chair includes a lumbar support, make use of it
- Consider using a sit-stand desk
Another good idea is to take regular mini breaks to help reduce the pressure building up in your back. Get up and move around every half hour or at least every hour
Learn How To Sit Properly
Would you like tips on how to arrange your work space and sit with better posture? Schedule a visit with your chiropractor or physiotherapist. They can assess your current situation and make recommendations to help you sit more comfortable and avoid neck and back stiffness.
If you are having pain right now, they can also provide treatment and create an exercise plan for you to help alleviate your pain and get you back to feeling good again
Visit Your Chiro or Physio
Frequently Asked Questions About Sitting And Back Pain
Q: Why does my back hurt when sitting?
A: When you sit for awhile, some of your muscles start tightening up and getting shorter. The muscles opposite to those will become weaker. The discs in your lower back have been under load for awhile now. The lack of movement means the natural lubricating of your joints through movement is not taking place
Q: How can I prevent back pain when sitting?
A:Avoid leaning forward as you work. Lean up again the back of your chair. Have you screen set at eye level. Take breaks every 30 minutes to get up and walk around. Stretch the muscles that have tightened and shortened while sitting, such as your hamstrings, hip flexors, chest and biceps
Q: Why do I have back pain while sitting but not standing?
A: Different postures put stress on different parts of your body. When you are sitting, things such as your discs are under load or pressure. When you are standing, the pressue on your discs is less and the movement of walking helps keep your joints mobile and lubricated